Posted by: tierratemplada | April 6, 2013

The Dark Side of Ebook Publishing


Gone is the age of intermediaries. As the market share of ebooks increases and the readers’ preference shifts to electronic formats, the role and power of traditional publishers diminishes. Thanks to this digital revolution, the authors are regaining full control over the fruits of their sweat and toil. Niche writers, whose work could never find a print publisher, can finally enter the market. Voices that would otherwise go unheard, can finally find an audience in the cyberspace. Finally we are witnessing the flowering of Indie in the books industry. But enough said about the benefits of the ebook revolution. Now is the time to focus on the downsides, and ways to fix them.

Two words: quality management. E-publishing enthusiasts often talk about traditional publishers as if they were pure evil, a legion of greedy vampire-businessmen hellbent on bloodsucking the author dry out of profits. It is true that print publishers take a lot of margin for themselves, but they also serve as guardians of quality. Armies of editors toil to ensure that the published work is up to standards, rooting out nasty typos and polishing the text. Beautiful covers are designed by professional artists. All this is, of course, entirely selfish and money-driven, its sole purpose being to boost sales. But by taking out the middle man, we essentially expose the consumer to amateurish, poorly edited or just plain crappy works that should never have seen the light of day. Sure, there are extremely talented authors, jacks-of-all-trades who do the editing, marketing and designing on their own, outputting high-quality, professional books. But for each professional ebook, there are hundreds of low-quality, worthless, poorly edited monstrosities that eclipse the quality products out there.

This situation benefits no-one. The readers are in danger of wasting their money and time on trash, while the talented writers find it harder and harder to distinguish themselves from the masses. So what indicators of quality are there? Reviews, of course, but what if those are missing?

Well, one can always judge the book by its cover. Superficial though it may seem, the fact that the author has spent a good deal of time and effort to create an interesting front design, shows some level of commitment on his or her part. A blank page with the title written in a generic Comic font, or a few lines jotted down hurriedly in Paint, are major red flags.

Then there are of course samples – a few pages from the book to showcase the quality of the product. But there is no certainty that the sample’s quality is representative of the whole book. While the first few pages might be fine-tuned and edited to draw in the reader, it may not be the case for the remainder of the work.

So how can the reader be confident that he or she isn’t being cheated, that the money spent, even if it is just $0.99, will not go wasted? Sticking to tried and trusted authors is one way, but what if one wants to explore a world beyond Amanda Hocking? What about those writers who haven’t had the chance to prove themselves, but may very well be diamonds in the rough? One way to solve this problem is to bring the publisher back into publishing.

Though this may sound like the ebook industry shooting itself in the proverbial foot, we need a brand, a label of quality that will allow talented fledgling writers to be recognized in the vast cyberspace. By introducing strict quality assurance, ebook-centric publishing houses will help authors gain the recognition they deserve, as well as establish and cement the ebook’s status as a legitimate, professional medium of expression.

Of course there are many self-publishing companies seeking to cash in on the digital boom, but unlike traditional publishers, they aren’t picky about their authors. They are content to take the hopeful writer’s money, even if his or her work is completely unfit to publish. Unlike traditional publishing companies, they aren’t concerned about the success of the book, or their reputation. They thrive on dreams, not readers.

We need true e-book publishing companies which prioritize quality over quantity. With time, these companies will develop into widely recognized labels that will help readers in segregating junk from quality products. These may be commercial affairs, taking a small margin for themselves, or networks of enthusiast authors who edit and review each other’s work in an effort to develop and maintain a common label that readers know they can trust.

I’m working on the publication of Tierra Templada, my upcoming poetry ebook, with one such company. Ouroboros Independent Books ( is a group of literature enthusiasts dedicated to the development and marketing of quality fiction in the ebook industry. The staff is very supporting, helping me edit my ebook so that it meets high industry standards. They also help me with the marketing and cover-designing. Here’s an example of the cover for Tierra Templada we’ve whipped up together:


Ouroboros Independent Books is a pioneering organization that may well revolutionize the ebook market. This, and other emerging ebook publishers, commercial or otherwise, can bring quality assurance back into e-publishing, while maintaining the freedom and variety made possible due to the non-existent production costs.



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